The Run of the "Little Rock Express"

by Kelly Dunlap

The Run of the "Little Rock Express"

UP's "Little Rock Express," led by UP 844 and UP 1982, arriving at North Dupo, Ill, on June 4, 2011, just prior to its whistle stop.

Ever since 2004, when UP 3985 first arrived in St. Louis with the "Super Bowl Special" to Houston, Texas, I was fascinated with how steam locomotives operated in the present day. The 3985 may have lit a spark within, but UP 844 ignited it further into a burning flame similar to those that powered the steamers.

When I got to participate in the railroad's "You Route the Steam" contest, I was skeptical. From the start of the voting, I kept thinking if I would get a chance to see the "Living Legend" in person. I figured since 3985 showed up here in late 2010 for the Sedalia Sesquicentennial that this would be my best chance to hopefully see the 844. Surely, it would be tough when Chicago, like St. Louis, was a finalist with its "Tuscola Turn," but when the contest ended and the votes tallied, it was the "Little Rock Express" via St. Louis -- by a nose! (Actually, it was only by a couple thousand votes.)

When UP announced that 844 and 1982 would lead the train two months after the contest results, I could not help but get excited; however, the real prize would arrive sooner than expected.

On June 1, 2011, when I heard on the news that the train would be on display at downtown St. Louis on June 3, I had to get pictures of the "Legend." I first caught it at Kirkwood, beating out a crowd, on June 2. Then, I took pictures on its "Display Day" (June 3). Finally, I chased it to Dupo, Ill., on June 4 and got more pictures. It seemed that I could not get enough of the steam engine, but it was well worth the wait -- and the crowd that came to see it.

All in all, it was a great experience, even though steam is all but extinct now. I would never forget how fortunate -- and lucky -- I was to see both UP steamers in that short a time. If that win in the contest wasn't just for me, it was for the first "Railroad Capital" that is St. Louis, Mo., -- and we could not help but notice and take full advantage of what was presented before us!

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Passenger Trains, Steam Trains, Historical Events
St Louis, MO
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  • Very cool. Saw it and chased it as well, was a fun time!

    - Lewis Marien a few years ago